Marla Mase Takes The World By Storm
Marla Mase a lady with many talents from being a writer, to a performer, to a singer and to a song writer she has taken the world of entertainment by storm. Her lyrics are raw, and speak truth many people are able to relate to it. Mase just recently performed in China and was given an honorary award for her visionary work as a performer and songwriter by the United Nations. Her journey has recently begun and she has already made head waves throughout the world. Trisha had a chat with Marla Mase to get to know more on her life, talents and her new album Speak Deluxe which will be released on the 28th of Febuary.
If you could describe yourself, who is Marla Mase?
My first instinct is to go back to my childhood: a cocky little girl with a dirty face full of ice-cream, who thought she was a tom-boy. I liked to play cops and robbers, freeze-tag, dodge ball, running bases and hang with the boys on the block (actually the backyard alleyway—in Canarsie, Brooklyn); and if they were mean to me I’d ‘get my big brother after them.’ I was also the sensitive girl who squinted with one eye, loved her cat, and felt out of place. I would speak, tossing arrows out of my mouth (I refer to my words/sentiments as arrows, I am not referring to barbs or snarkiness), and it seemed to me that they most often ended up on the ground, missing their mark. I think this pretty much sums me up. I’m tough, I have stand up for what I believe in, I’m irreverent (as well as a life-long ‘goody-goody’), playful, sexy and I’m also scared and sensitive with a huge need to communicate and connect.
When did your music career start?
Officially, it started in the middle of 2008 when I begun writing song after song. These songs came out of personal hardships I was going through and for some reason singing above everything made me feel better. Before that I was a writer, but not a songwriter – my brother was a songwriter, my mother, my grandfather, my sister-in-law, but never me. I used to joke around and say, “What I really should be is a rocker but I don’t sing and I don’t write music, oh well, next life.” So I guess my system knew what I wanted way before I ever did. But in December 2008 I was working on a show I wrote called A Brief Night Out which was an abridged version of a longer play I wrote called Man/Woman and I had all these songs. I work shopped it twice, singing acapella and using other actors or singers I knew to sing some of the songs, then in January 2009 I said, “I need to find a musician.” A friend of mine said, “I know this guy Tommy, and he might be a good match for you.” It was only then my official music career was born.
Your style of music is raw, your lyrics speak truth? Who composes your music?
A ha, – (and thanks for the compliment-) – Tomás Doncker is my co-writer, guitarist, musical director and producer. In the beginning I came to him with all these songs and I sang them for him and then he would find it in about 3 seconds on the guitar and that’s how we worked. He would change things up as he saw fit – (a better bridge, a funkier groove, he would ask questions about the song and what it was I wanted to get across). As our relationship developed the process changed – sometimes it was as I just described, other times he would start playing a groove and I would make up lyrics on the spot and that’s where we’re at now. Sometimes I’m very clear about the sound I want (like when I came up with AnnaRexia – I was at the beach in Coney Island and there was all this reggae playing – and suddenly I started singing ‘Anna Anna Anna Anna Rexia, AnnaRexia’ and I called him and said, I want to do a new song, it’s called AnnaRexia and it’s a reggae song and I sang the chorus to him while on the phone.
Tomás is brilliant at songwriting/producing and understanding the artist he is working with. He is the musical director (the bandleader) so he is the one who tells the other musicians the sound, style, vibe he is going for on each track. Tomás usually knows pretty quickly which direction to go in. Of course he lets them find ‘it’ (they are ALL world-class musicians and each one adds his/her own take) but he steers the ship once I’ve passed on my lyrics, melodies, thoughts, ruminations and whatever else I have in my brain on to him. He and I develop the song and then he handles the band. Basically, it goes likes this – I handle him, he handles them .Seriously, I’ve been very blessed to find such a great music partner. And on my first try too.
If you could describe your music style in one word, what word would you use?
Psychotic! A friend of mine said that once. No, I don’t think it is psychotic, it’s ‘Mase’ that’s the best way I can describe it – it’s very me, very Mase.
Where have performed?
I have performed all over NYC – you know rock-n-roll clubs, divvy, dirty, dark and sexy – some less so, some more so. I’ve performed in cabaret ktheatres (especially for my theatrical outings – when I perform the play version of A Brief Night Out), I’ve performed in straight-up theatres, in music festivals (i.e. Pennsylvania, Buffalo, Massachusetts) I did a mini-tour of the Northeast this past October. I went to China this past September. I was invited by the Friends of the UN to perform for a UN GLOBAL PEACE DAY event in Linzhou City, China September 21, 2012. And I’ll be going to Europe (UK, Germany and Paris) in April. I also booked my show SPEAK, a multi-media concert performance at one of NYC’s largest outdoor festivals for summer 2013.
How many albums have you released?
Three – well almost 3: A Brief Night Out (rock opera) in December 2010, Speak in July 2011 and now SPEAK DELUXE which will be released on the 28 of February 2013.
Your band has been named as one of the top ten emerging bands for 2012 how does that make you feel?
It’s fantastic and I am very GRATEFUL. I’m also proud of myself. In the 2 years since A Brief Night Out was released I’ve accomplished quite a lot – (3 albums, many performances, invitations to festivals, fundraisers, theatres, I have an international fan base, toured China, wrote a rock opera, and….) I’m proud because it’s all a result of my sweat and blood. I work hard Trish, very hard. I love it and that’s why I do it. Plus, my band is phenomenal. As I said the musicians I work with are all brilliant – so it makes sense to me – I’m backed by quite a formidable army.
You were invited to perform for UN GLOBAL PEACE DAY in Linzhou City how was it there?
It was very interesting to say the least. First off Linzhou City is in the middle of China – it is the heartland so we got to see the way people live. It’s a beautiful area – mountains and fog (just like you see in all those pictures/drawings of China), a breathtaking canyon with towns built into the walls of it. Wow. It’s a poor area. The homes looked like NYC tenements – worse actually, with no enclosing walls, more like the remains of a war-torn, bombed out city. (You can see this in my video ‘Piece of Peace’ much of which was shot in China.) Still, the people came out for the festival (it was ‘Linzhou’s 1st Annual Friendship and Peace Festival’)—what can I say? As open as China has become and may seem, you can feel the politics everywhere. In the verbiage, the advertising, the posters, the songs. And we were there via the friends of the UN so there was an agenda and a certain protocol that had to be respected. After all we were there as guests.
To top it off you was given an honorary “Messenger of Peace” award for your visionary work as a songwriter and performing artist, has that impacted your career in any way, and you as a person?
Absolutely, China was a game changer in certain respects. People/fans/press need to hear about stuff like that, it legitimizes things or in some cases clarifies – we know that an artist is an artist regardless of all that but that’s the way the world runs and it has an impact when people hear that sort of thing. As a side note—I thought it was funny at first, well not funny, that’s the wrong word, I was surprised. ‘I only write about war and sex’ I said, how can I be a ‘messenger of peace?’ But obviously war/peace – it’s the same thing –and it’s hard to see oneself the way others do. I’m just doing what I do, I really don’t have an agenda with my work .It just comes to me and I capture it (or not) and try and express it as it presents itself. One of the first things I told Tomás when we started working together was ‘I am not an activist. But apparently I am not in charge (thank G-d). I’m just here to do my part and join the journey.
Your album Speak Deluxe will be released soon, tell us more about your album?
SPEAK DELUXE is a deluxe edition of my previous album SPEAK. So it has the 10 songs from the original album with the addition of 6 new tracks. Why Deluxe, and not a new album entirely? Well these 6 tracks felt very much in the same vein. They are all about SPEAKING OUT on some level or another — whether it is for the woman who killed herself that Dance the Tango is dedicated to, or the silencing of the passion of the masses that Lioness represents or the millions of girls or women (men or boys too!) that suffer from the plague that is sweeping the Western World in AnnaRexia. I never write with a concept in mind – or haven’t yet—as I said the songs/poems come to me and then afterwards somehow they tell the same story even though at first glance or if you listen they may appear to be quite disparate. (And as a bonus it has the legendary Bill Laswell’s Dubmix of AnnaRexia on it – what can be better than to have his fingerprint on one of my songs? Wow, wow and wow.)
The music industry is such a competitive industry what do you think makes you stand out above the rest?
Well apparently I’m different or so ‘they’ say. I didn’t really know that. As I said before I can’t always see myself – I’m just being me and to me, me is just me. What I think makes me different is that I’m a woman in her 40’s who is comfortable in her own skin, in her sexuality, and not afraid to be herself. And I’m out there doing my thing. I think we need more of that in general – so the younger generation can see that and do the same. I’m not saying I’m a role model but damn, someone has to get out there and say, ‘Love yourself, stop hiding it. And if you do so, your life will be easier. Much, much easier. ‘ I want to have buttons made ‘Love Your Butt Campaign’ or “Love Your Ass’ and give them out at every performance. I think it’s THAT important.
Apart from music, what are your other talents?
I always say I’m a writer first – so writing. I am also a great live performer. That may sound arrogant but it’s true, I love performing and I’m good at it. I give my all. I’m a great friend and a loving mother. (with lots of guilt I may add—as soon as you become a parent you are imbued with tons of guilt – I would hope my kids would agree with this—the loving part of course, not the guilt-ridden part ) and some other talents that I will not discuss here – but if you search around some of my songs or spoken word pieces you might find out….
You have a show that you’re busy working on called “SPEAK” what does this entail?
SPEAK (the show) – speaktheshow.com is a multi-media concert performance based on the songs of SPEAK DELUXE and other of my writings that explores the themes of freedom/confinement/ body image/oppression and sexuality. It has a troupe of dancers under the choreography of Adrienne Hurd, and a cast of stellar actresses, each of who has a distinct voice and tale in the myth-histories and archetypes that make up WOMAN. The show is directed by Sara Berg who also directed my rock opera, A Brief Night Out. I’m very excited about this show and again I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with such a phenomenal group of artists. It has been booked by a major summer festival here in New York City. We hope to bring it to other arts festivals here and abroad.
Do you have any advice for our readers out there?
Love Yourself –!!!! And BE KIND TO Yourself and To Others!
If people want to get a hold of you, where can they get a hold of you?
I love being getting hold of email@example.com.Plus all the other usual suspects: marlamase.com which is my personal website. I am on facebook, as well as on twitter @marlamase.